Sunday 15thJuly 2018
We sleep in, after a fashion. 7am is a sleep-in around here. Despite best efforts we are awake relatively early and that is perhaps a factor of light. Most of the crew are asleep when we walk up to the local community church where our number of ten ‘blows them up” – to borrow local phrase (A bus load of 42 visitors just blew up town (McCarthy)).” We get to choose favourite hymns so we grab some we haven’t touched in a while. The pastor walks us through a very good lesson on prayer and at the end of the service we are invited to lunch. Actually we were invited even as we had barely sat down. How could we refuse?
The basement is set up for dining so that’s what we did, joining locals and visitors alike. Apart from conversation we get to know a couple of locals including the woman who works at the general store and who later in the day ensures our serving of ice-cream is ‘extra special’ and John who volunteers at the museum. We make it up there by 1pm after the church service, or shortly thereafter and take out time looking at exhibits. We had dropped in earlier and realised it needed more time than we could give it then. This time we have the advantage of having walked over Erie and Bonanza as well as the main mill so the history now has a bit more context. We are particularly struck by the model of Bonanza mine which reveals just how extensive the mine was. It also helps us understand some of what we saw up there, including the narrow gauge tram tracks . They came from two tunnel entrances just behind where our tents were placed and explain perhaps the hole in the mountain which I saw behind the remains of an electrical supply shed/switching shed. The broken rock and timbers let me see into the tunnel and to spot the ceramic insulators in the ceiling. There’s a lot of rotten rock up there and I resist the urge to go in. It’s a perfectly dangerous place and I resolve to tell no one else but show them the following morning as we walk out. We might take more risks if this was not an organised trip, but front of mind is what this would look like if someone entered this tunnel and a rockfall or collapse killed or injured them. The last thing I need is for someone to enter a place like that and vanish into a deep shaft (apparently plenty perished that way) or have the mountain collapse on them. The snow interrupted those plans. We enjoy the museum, buy more books and wander up the street to buy the legendary ice cream. It’s pretty good alright.
It’s late afternoon by the time we arrive back at the Lodge where everyone is up and about and mostly being entertained by Jaimie who is sending vast plumes of brown smoke into the air from green prunings he is stacking on the fire. From the smell of things oil or diesel has been used as an initiator. A hint of black smoke helps confirm the suspicion. It takes a while for this smoke signal to transform into a hot spot and resemble anything like a fire but we get there in the end. It’s our last night here so many of the lads head into McCarthy. We have an early start tomorrow so I’m hoping they are sensible enough not to think they can travel hungover. Or worse, be ill in the van making the environment torrid for everyone. The rain has fallen all day. Not heavy but enough to mess up any plans to sit around the fire and sing and toast marshmellows, though some diehards persist with the latter. The group melts away to bed and the firepit falls quiet. I take a walk (armed with pepper spray of course) and on the way back a Red Fox (distinguished by his very white tipped tail) ran past me. That I was standing still trying to take a panoramic photograph meant he missed me altogether and simply loped past and up the track to the fire pit. Chances are the fox sat and watched us the rest of the evening but of course we didn’t see him again. In the slightly gloomy mist of midnight I called it quits and went to bed.
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